You probably haven't heard of French literary theorist and anthropologist Rene Girard (above), but he is an important influence on the theology of the emergent church and an increasing number of some former evangelicals. (Do I detect echoes of Girad in the teachings of Rob Bell, Brian McLaren and Steve Chaulke?)
Caleb Nelson has begun a series of three articles critiquing Girad's theology. A few highlights from the first article:
Girad believes in a God without wrath. God’s character is loving to the exclusion of all forms of justice and punishment. “He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mat 5:45 ESV) is for Girard a complete description of the divine character.
Jesus was supremely one who warns the violent of the consequences of their violence.
The crucifixion was merely a drastic example of the consequences of failure to heed the call to Kingdom living. “If they had accepted the invitation unreservedly, there would have been no apocalypse announced and no Crucifixion.”
Girad teaches that, Jesus is by nature God, though not in an exclusive sense. Other human beings can also attain to his divine status through his mediation.
Men are never condemned by God. They condemn themselves by their despair. Jesus does not save; He teaches us to be better—if we’ll listen.
As Nelson concludes
Girad has masterfully read the spirit of the age.
Reconciliation with God can take place unreservedly and with no sacrificial intermediary through the rules of the kingdom.
In his third and final article, Nelson responds to Girad by saying,
This is law, not gospel. Girard has stolen the supernatural salvation offered by Jesus and substituted a natural salvation for it. In so doing, he has arrayed himself against every branch of the historic Christian faith.
Nelson closes with,
The God Girard offers is not Jehovah; the salvation he offers is unobtainable; and the exegesis he offers is deceitful. His vision of mankind is not wicked enough, and his vision of Christ is not exalted enough. A God who cannot condemn is a God who cannot save. Our God has done both—at the cross of Jesus Christ.